Ko Chang sunset

Buying a SIM Card in Thailand

In Get Connected by Dave Dean17 Comments

Like the rest of South East Asia, Thailand offers a lot to travellers. Beautiful beaches and landscapes, great weather, fantastic food and inexpensive prices make it an appealing destination, and many millions of visitors flock to the country every year.

For those looking to stay connected while they’re there, the good news is that buying a local SIM card is a straightforward and inexpensive process, with decent data speeds and good coverage almost everywhere.

Here’s what you need to know.

Companies


  • We recommend AIS for most travellers

There are three cell networks in Thailand, operated by dtac, AIS and TrueMove. While you can also buy SIM cards and service from resellers, there’s little point in doing so for most short-term visitors to the country.

AIS has the largest market share, and also has a large network of Wi-fi hotspots that you can access as part of the more expensive packages. It seems like you’re rarely far from one of these hotspots, which don’t count towards your mobile data allowance.

The company sells prepaid service under the 1-2-Call and you! Mobile brands. Although the latter provides more flexibility, most travellers will find themselves using 1-2-Call SIMs as they’re more widely available.

I’ve used dtac’s Happy prepaid service in the past, but now tend to stick with AIS due to those Wi-fi hotspots. Note you’ll need a phone that supports the 2100Mhz band to get 3G data (almost all GSM phones do), and 4G/LTE isn’t available at the time of writing.

How


Like many other things in Thailand, buying a SIM card is simple. If you fly into Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport, all three cell companies have booths beside each other in the arrival hall. They all offer pretty much the same tourist-focused packages, which are aimed mainly at those spending a week or less in the country.

If you’re in a hurry and not in the country for long, feel free to pick up one of these packages — but for better deals, seek out one of the company’s retail shops outside the airport, or a Family Mart convenience store (which can be found all over Thailand).

Depending on where you buy your SIM, you may be asked for your passport — there’s technically a requirement to register your details, but it’s not always enforced, especially in smaller stores. Instructions for activation are written in English and Thai on the packaging, but the salesperson will often do this for you (especially at the airport or official stores).

When purchasing at a convenience store you typically buy the card for 50 baht (look for a Freedom 3G card), plus a top-up voucher for as much as you need. Add the credit from the voucher by following the instructions printed on it, then activate your desired package with a specific code.

Many of the staff in these stores speak enough English to understand what you’re after and explain the basics of what you need to do.

 

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Costs


If you buy one of the AIS tourist packages at the airport, you’ll pay 299 baht ($10) for a card with 1.5GB of data valid for seven days, plus 100 baht call credit valid for a month.

There’s also a 459 baht option with three SIM cards and 3GB of data valid for a week, which could be useful for small groups. Packages valid for a month are also available for higher prices, but in that case you’re better off waiting until you’re outside the airport and buying a standard 1-2-Call package.

If you buy your SIM card elsewhere, you’ll have access to the full range of 1-2-Call packages. They are many and varied, with validity ranging from a day to a month.

One of the more useful ones includes 2GB of data valid for 30 days for 239 baht (enter *777*75#), but check here for the latest offers — they change all the time. Local calls and SMS are very inexpensive, and I’ve never spent more than 50 baht in a month on them.

Topping Up


You can buy top-ups at Family Mart convenience stores and many other locations. Just keep an eye out for the AIS / 1-2-Call logo.

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Coverage and Data Speeds


AIS coverage is good almost anywhere you’re likely to go as a tourist, and much of the rest of the country as well. I’ve had full signal most of the time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and other provincial capitals, as well as on bus and scooter trips in the countryside.

I even had signal for a while after crossing the border into Cambodia, at least until I got outside the range of the last Thai cell tower.

Data speeds are reasonable without being exceptional — the speeds shown in screenshot below are pretty typical.

Bangkok AIS 3G speeds

AIS 3G speeds in Bangkok

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a wanderer for nearly 20 years and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Hi Dave,

    A great guide to buying a SIM in Thailand. It worked exactly as you mentioned and the prices are spot on. On mainland Thailand it’s easy to go to the AIS stores. Check out their offers. Sam got 1 week pass with 1GB of data and BHT50 for calls FREE. If you arrive on some of the islands first like Koh Lipe or Koh Lanta the 7 Elevens seem to run out of the best SIMs quite often, just a heads up. I purchased my SIM in a 7 Eleven on Koh Lanta and had 2GB and BHT50 for calls during our month stay in Thailand which lasted right up to the last day!

  2. Hi Dave,
    I just want to update information. The account identification has been required every store. I heard that it must do due to the government policy. Besides, there’re 4G services in Thailand since the beginning of this year. I and my friend went to Thailand for 2 weeks last month. My iPad is WiFi-only model, but my accommodation has not WiFI. So, I rented mobile router called – ThaiSims. It provided unlimited data (I don’t know how much GB). Then, my iPad can connect internet everywhere, not only in the hotel. It priced 5$/day. I and my friend equally paid. So, it’s just 2.5$/day!

  3. my son is going to Thailand to teach English this Sept for at least 6 months…trying to fig out best plan/ card for him for data/text/voice(he has to call me of course!) I’m really confused

    1. Author

      There’s not a great deal of price difference between the various SIM card options, especially if he’ll be in the country for a few months. Around $10/month will get him 2GB of data and a few local calls and texts, as long as he buys the SIM from a 7-11 or cell company rather than at the airport. If he needs more data each month, there are larger packages available too. As mentioned in the article, I like AIS because it has wide network coverage, and also gives you access to loads of Wi-fi hotspots in the cities.

      For calling you, I’d recommend he uses Skype (or something similar, like Facetime) to save money.

  4. Good morning:

    I currently am living in Bangkok and just wanted to provide an update. I too like AIS, and all the family are using a tourist SIM. There has been a recent change where AIS and 7/11 are no longer affiliated. You can however top up the AIS cards at Family Mart locations, which are also very plentiful around Bangkok. You can also top up via the AIS website and using a credit card, something I do regularly.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the info, Al! I’ve updated the post to reflect this change.

  5. If I understand this correctly, to enable my laptop I need a GMS phone with a AIS sim card to teather to my laptop. Or is there another way?

  6. Hi Dave!
    Thanks for this informative posts!

    Would you please recommend the cheapest package of 1-2 Call for me? I will be staying in the city center so I’m sure I can find Family Mart around the area.

    I’m using a 4G enabled phone with 1800Mhz frequency. I need a fast connection (1.5 GB and up) and not so much on call for 7 days 6 nights in BKK.

    I’m also considering the 7 day tourist sim if there’s not much difference with the price as compared to the 1-2 Call sim in local stores.

    Thanks a lot! God bless.
    Hendel

    1. Author

      Hi Hendel,

      I haven’t been to Thailand for a while, unfortunately, so I don’t have first hand experience of what the current package pricing looks like. That said, the link I gave above (http://www.ais.co.th/package/) should be pretty accurate.

      There will certainly be a difference between the tourist SIM price at the airport and what’s available at local stores elsewhere, but you’re not talking large sums either way for a 7 day stay.

  7. Been in Bangkok for 5 hrs now and not found the sim I want.

    The airport only sold 7 day sims that were more expensive than quoted on here and the local 7/11s didn’t have stock and the family mart didn’t have the 1-2-c in stock and the 7 day one I decided to get as a last resort they couldn’t register online so they wouldn’t sell it to me!

  8. Last year 7-Eleven fell out with AIS over fees and no longer stock AIS products or offer a top-up service – they are now TrueMove retailers.

    The easiest place to top up your credit is Tesco Lotus who are everywhere – I’ve never tried Family Mart…

    1. Author

      Purely convenience/laziness. 🙂 The AIS kiosk at Bangkok airport will only sell you tourist packages. If you’re happy to wait until you get into the city, you can buy the standard packages. Given the endless lines at that kiosk, apparently many people can’t wait to get connected!

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